School of Mathematics

David Head

Agent-based modelling of the dental plaque biofilm

The growing realisation of the importance of bacterial biofilms to the environment and to human health is increasing the demand for high-fidelity models, to accelerate the translation of novel candidate treatments and therapeutic agents to clinical and commercial reality. Hybrid modelling, where cellular aggregates are represented as particles and dispersed phases as continuous fields, provide a natural framework for multi-species microbial communities and are increasingly amenable to numerical solution.

In this talk I will discuss a collaboration with the School of Dentistry in Leeds, to develop, validate and exploit a hybrid model for dental plaque, the most well-characterised biofilm of relevance to human health. Plaque is normally in symbiosis with the host, but can become dysbiotic after environmental perturbation, e.g. the introduction of dietary sugars leading to an increase in the fraction of harmful, acid-producing bacteria. After explaining the general model framework, I will describe results from our most recent project probing the relative roles of frequency and total amount of dietary sugars on the cariogenicity (pathogenicity) of supra-gingival plaque.